A RAMSEY St Mary s woman was so obstructive to investigations of her activities as an unlicensed dog breeder that magistrates ordered her to pay the full £6,500 costs of the investigation. Sharon Sharpstone, 52, of Holme Road, was fined £500 in addition t
A RAMSEY St Mary's woman was so obstructive to investigations of her activities as an unlicensed dog breeder that magistrates ordered her to pay the full £6,500 costs of the investigation.
Sharon Sharpstone, 52, of Holme Road, was fined £500 in addition to Huntingdonshire District Council's £6,517.52 costs of vet's fees and almost 150 hours of environmental health officers' and legal staff's time.
She admitted one charge of keeping a breeding establishment for dogs without a licence. A second charge was not proceeded with.
Vicki Stevens, prosecuting for HDC, said the matter arose not from allegations of animal cruelty, which would have been a separate matter for the RSPCA, but from someone who had bought a puppy from Sharpstone and complained of filthy conditions.
The council's animal welfare manager, Val Trusty, had visited and been refused entry. When she returned with an environmental health officer, they had again been refused access, and Sharpstone had refused to answer questions.
"It was like banging your head against a brick wall," Miss Stevens said.
Twelve litters of various breeds had been bred and registered with the Kennel Club between June 2004 and July 2005.
Magistrates issued a warrant to grant access to the premises but that elicited a complaint to the Ombudsman, who agreed that it was "a perfectly proper and lawful warrant".
But, even when Mrs Trusty and her colleague, accompanied by vet Robert Done, returned, Sharpstone delayed further before allowing access only to the side of the house.
There they found two female bulldogs in a kennel, a highly contaminated fenced area with 11 kennels, eight flooded kennels and a male bulldog running free, Miss Stevens said.
It subsequently emerged that, between January 26 2005 and November 9 of that year, she had six litters and 41 puppies that sold for around £350 each.
"What the district council wants more than anything is for her to co-operate. If she had done so from the outset, it would have saved a lot of trouble and expense," Miss Stevens told Huntingdonshire magistrates. "Sticking her head in the sand won't make it go away. There is a legal limit to the number of times breeders can breed from a dog."
She said Sharpstone had decided not to apply for a breeder's licence, but had undertaken to restrict her breeding activities to within the legal limit.
Solicitor John Crisp, defending, said that, as a "hobby breeder", his client could breed up to four litters a year, which could result in about 40 puppies. He accepted her previous activities had exceeded that.
Her initial lack of co-operation had been because of ignorance of the law, he said. As soon as she consulted him and he had explained her position "she did co-operate and things are a lot better now".
All proceeds from the sale of puppies were ploughed back into the business in feed and vets' fees. She had spent £45,500 on kennel drainage and other works to keep the animals in good condition, Mr Crisp told the court.
"She is a housewife whose hobby got out of hand. She has a lot to learn. But she makes no money out of the business."
Magistrates, who could have sent Sharpstone to prison for three months, told her: "As you were uncooperative, costs were inevitably much higher than they would otherwise have been, so we order that you pay the full costs".
An inspection by the RSPCA had found no evidence of animals suffering, although cleanliness had been compromised by a drainage problem that had now been fixed. The inspector found that the dogs were kept in "reasonable conditions".